Sometimes I`m surprised

torbenbp

Well-Known Member
Gents..as subj. says I`m really often surprised by the positive and helpfull attitude in here.
That is something very special and unusual..peoble gladly sharing their knowledge, helping out newbies,answering stupid questions for the 99`th time and still being patient about it.

Razors and hones going back and forth acros countries and continents..Example: A very precious (to me that is,otherwise no value) Tally Ho was bought on Ebay,sent to Denmark,then to Ralfy in the UK,back again for a while,then off to Sir Bart in Belgium. And with a little luck(I`m sure Bart is not half as bad at the Tormek as he says) back again. And that my gents is a matter of trust. And that we should remember in here.

Bart made a great place for us,and at times we seem to forget the amount of work and time he puts in it.

And at other times friends across the big pond reaches out and helps..and asks for nothing in return. No name mentioned,but thanks again.But that is indeed something you will remember always.

Gents..no harsh words or complaints..all positive things so I guess no one wants to read it...bwahahahah..erhh sorry Ralfy
Regards Gents
 
G

Guest

Yes, the joys of running a small, dedicated, and well educated group of forum members... :(

On a lighter note: I have one clueless newbie in uhhh... Scotland hot on my heels. I've provided him with a Bart honed razor (
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) and an Illinois strop (man, those are flimsy compared to my Old Traditional or the otherwise quite decent SRD Premiums I have). Anyhow, he wants a larger full hollow, and I happen to have an old Watbro 6/8 I don't need anymore. Anyone in the UK, preferably Scotland, who would be willing to hone the two and send them back to the guy?

Regards,
Robin
 

torbenbp

Well-Known Member
Thanks for replying...but I do believe your subj. should be in Misc.Stuff in a new/other thread.

Sir Bart keeps a strict order in here.

Regards gents
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
Ah yes Torbs its a cool thing we have here for sure, and Sir Bart is a dedicated and gracious host :thumbup:

I will do the hones Robin if you would like, I am in England which is pretty close, unless someone nearer wants to do it of course, but the offer is there, p.m me to arrange it if you wish me to do them.
 
G

Guest

You got the job, Ralfy. I'll cover the shipping to the guy, of course.

Thanks!
Robin
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
Thank you for such a warm compliment, Torben. Much appreciated.

I like this place too. In my heart, I am a romantic fellow, and believe I was primarily drawn to straight razor shaving, because it has that romantic, artisan aspect. It's a quality that I also find in planting an apple tree, pruning and nurturing it with care during its first years, harvesting apples, brewing an excellent cider and distilling Calvados from the part you can't drink in time. Owning a wood stove, building the woodshed, honing the axe, felling trees, chopping wood during long Saturdays at early fall. Overhauling an old car engine. There was a time when fathers learned their sons how to do such things. Nowadays, car engines are filled with electronics that are locked with passwords at the factory, wood stoves burn pellets, distilling Calvados is illegal, and people shave with a 5 blade piece of marketing ploy.
Sometimes I miss being that old-time father (I've 2 daughters, and I try to teach them things, but their lives are often filled with modern stuff that so often lack heart). At other times, I miss being the son (My dad is a typical post-WWII child. He believes in progress. Gave me an electric shaving apparatus when I was 14. Told me to read the manual.:) )

Anyway, I believe that straight razor shaving grants us the great opportunity to tap into the romantic artisan-ship I was referring to. We can come here to learn with the flabbergasted enthusiasm of a son at one time, and to share knowledge with the gratifying wisdom of a father, at another time. That is what I dreamed for this forum. And it differs from places where I often felt like being among quarreling brothers, battling to be on the highest pole in the coop.

Torben, you mentioned to Robin that I am strict in running this place. That is only partially true, for I am very lenient by nature. But to keep the atmosphere one that allows for the uncompromising exchange of information in the father-son sense, there are some things that I will oppose. I do that mostly in between the lines, but for once:O I will be direct:

1. "Acquisition Disorders". It used to be called "greed". Although I don't have collector's blood myself, I admire people who do. But building a collection is not the same as mindlessly giving in to an urge to own more stuff. All humans have this tendency to gather more stuff than we need/use. When we were living half-naked in forests many moons ago, most goods were so rare and precious that you better held on to whatever crossed your path. Today, that behavior, once separating the survivors from those who didn't make it, has turned many people on the Northern hemisphere into overweighted, greed-driven bums that refuse to see how they're exhausting the planet's resources. I constantly have to restrain myself from acquiring too much stuff (and too much weight:blush: ), and I guess we all loose a battle with ourselves sometimes. But I plan on winning the war. Because of that sentiment, it often dumbfounds me how the ruling tone on some forums has become one of bragging about greediness, disguised in the euphemistic term "acquisition disorder". If I had one, I would keep silent in shame. Now, this would all just be an annoyance, and I would shake my head in stoicism, if it weren't for the fact that loud voices are promoting the various Acquisition Disorders with the claim that all the items are needed for the ultimate shaving experience. That Razor X takes only his best edge on paste Y, applied to leather of the foreskin of an Elephantus Africanus. This is not what a father would tell his son. Because a father, in front of his son, does not seek to justify his own ways with sharing dubious information.

2. Business Reflexes. I believe communities (or even societies) die if they become overly occupied with the constant strive for commercial opportunities. I believe in a worldwide straight shaving community where new guys are welcomed with overwhelming goodwill to help the guy out. I consider it an ongoing disgrace that new guys must pay to have a razor sharpened. I see persons arrive at forums and within their 20th post, they are deploying commercial activity. All the sudden, what they post is subtly -or sometimes even bluntly- inspired by what they offer for sale. If you want an example how that influences the "knowledge" at the straight razor landscape: By 2006, the 4K/8K Norton was considered a complete setup for honing razors. If you wanted to be frivolous, or a bit tired of buying more razors (they were still cheap back then), you could purchase a Coticule or an Escher for a different finish. Today in 2010, you need a 1K, 2K, 4K, 8K, 12K and a felt strop with 2 grades of diamond spray to hone a razor. I see an analogy with the evolution from DE to Gillette Fusion. An evolution that was only driven by profit and marketing.

For this reason, I am strict about commercial activity on Coticule.be. It's free at the Marketplace (only a few basic rules apply), and strictly prohibited at the other sections. It's not easy to draw the line, because many of you come here to seek product information. In a way, all threads about the Vault are commercial threads. That is why I refuse to take profit on the hones. I could just as easily resell them, which would be easier for all of you, because the hones would be available immediately. And it would be very lucrative for myself. But I can't make rules that I don't follow myself, so the Vault will always function as it is. For full disclosure, I have purchased a few Coticules of my own. I'm going to sell those at the Marketplace, to partially compensate some of the costs I've made to run the Vault. So far, I drove 1500km in total on behalf of the Vault (and paid the fine for one traffic offense). Each time I drive up to Ardennes, I'm a full day unavailable for my family. The least I can do, is make up for the financial losses.

So now you guys know why this place is what it is.
I hope no one took offense.

Best regards,
Bart.
 
G

Guest

For those of you who haven't met Bart in person, you'd better believe every word he says. And I would like to congratulate him on the massive success that Coticule.be has become in its own right. It has turned into a fantastic source of information, and a very, very friendly place to be.

Oh, and I could not agree more about the negative impact commercial activities can have on a hobby community.

Thanks for the endeavour, and the ongoing effort, Bart. It is greatly appreciated.

Best wishes,
Robin
 
All very true. And mainly why I come here more than other places. I think what Bart has created here is quite literally amazing on a number of different levels. I admire his wisdom, his persistence, and his attitude. But there is another aspect of acquisition disorder that was not mentioned here and I think I should bring it up. This is in no way a criticism towards Bart or this site, just an observation about the general state of online forums elsewhere.

There are several artisans that have been quiet literally burned by the attitude of some people on (other) forums. They are great artisans, very honest people, and quite frankly a bit too trusting at times if you ask me. They now refuse to sell their creations to people through forums like those. They all say the same thing "I do my best to please and provide people with fine products for good prices - but there is no pleasing some people". And from my knowledge of their experiences, they are 100% right.

Acquisition disorder does not just fuel the greed of the afflicted, it also causes them to speak with false authority and at times destroy the good name of others - just for the sake of seeing their name in print. This is otherwise known as slander. This is where the balance between a non-commercial community and one that allows business on SOME level to exist becomes clear. It's important to keep in mind that while most of us come online as part of our hobby and simply enjoy the interaction with others that share our love for a certain object or style, others come online because this is pretty much how they put bread on their family's table.

Being a patron of the arts comes with a great amount of personal satisfaction, but we tend to forget the responsibility that comes along with it.

My point? - Be very careful what you write and how you write it. Words have a power of their own, especially in places like online forums. Being authoritative is good. Being a human being is even better. And if you can't behave like a decent human being, don't take it upon yourself to lead.
 
G

Guest

Some interesting points here, Robert. But I beg to offer a slightly different angle on this one here:

RobertSkinner said:
There are several artisans that have been quiet literally burned by the attitude of some people on (other) forums. They are great artisans, very honest people, and quite frankly a bit too trusting at times if you ask me. They now refuse to sell their creations to people through forums like those. They all say the same thing "I do my best to please and provide people with fine products for good prices - but there is no pleasing some people". And from my knowledge of their experiences, they are 100% right.
Not all vendors are created equal. There is a large, grey area in which hobbyists are active. More often than not, they start out with a few razors, hone or rescale them, find out they can make some money with them (the massive increase in prices for most things relating to straight shaving playing a crucial role here), then start looking for channels through which to sell their goods. Forums that offer a commercial venue are a prime choice. A very tempting one, too. And - especially when we are talking about big forums, where it is relatively easy to boost your post count and assume quasi authority - rather simple to manipulate.

Now take the perspective of the forum owner. Let us, for argument's sake, assume they are benign, and altruistic people without any ulterior interests. What should they do? In a binary world, there would be pure discussion, and pure sales forums. In reality, you get a mixture of both. Again ideally, you would have one confined space in which goods are traded, and maybe ads allowed for commercial vendors wishing to pay back for the extra influx of users they get through their ads.

So much for theory. In reality, the market is a saturated one, and profit margins are small. So more often than not, entrepreneurs resort to guerilla tactics. One that has proven successful for the marketeers, and detrimental to the forums, is to create a cult following, post reviews and comments across entire forums, and telling everyone that New Product X is the bee's knees. I cannot, and will not, divulge any details, but we recently experienced a case where a producer of skin products whipped up a frenzy, then failed to handle the demand, and resorted to relabelled ersatz products that caused severe skin problems.

So where do you, as a forum owner or as a senior member, draw the line? Do you require vendors (hobbyists and professionals alike) to submit samples before you allow them to offer their goods through your site? Not realistic. Do you rely on word of mouth from members? Pretty prone to guerilla marketing one the forum has more than a few members. Do you encourage damning reviews? One big forum does that (in fact, they seem to relish in vendor bashing, and the owner actively encourages it), the one on which I am active has zero tolerance for that (having resulted in a number of bans recently) - whether either way is right or wrong, I cannot say.

Speaking about rocks and hard places, there is no silver bullet for this challenge. Do vendors (or "artisans" if you will) get burned? Absolutely. Is anyone at fault? That depends. If you try to enter a saturated market full of high quality products, you will find it difficult to get a share of that market unless you either offer superior quality (hard to do in today's market, really), offer unique products of at least the same quality as the established players, or undercut their prices. Either of these will work. Off the top of my head, I can think of three soap/cream manufacturers who have managed to successfully establish themselves in niche markets (not everyone likes glycerine based soaps, for example). However, I can also think of two who offer - pardon my French - crap products. There is no other way to describe them. Soaps and creams happen to be the one area where I can claim some authority, and when I end up with an average rating of less than 35% for a product, and someone else (who has a minuscule fraction of my experience) comes up with an average rating of 100%, I smell a sizeable rodent.

So where do people get burned? In my experience, usually through their own fault (marketeering, offering inferior quality). In professional forums, the forum owners or management teams will see to it that members wanting to boost their egos (or compensate for other psychological shortcomings) are neutralised before any damage gets done to the vendor's reputation. At least one big forum thinks otherwise, which is why I was banned from there when I spoke up in a thread in which a major manufacturer of straight razors was slandered by people who could not even back up their wild accusations with visual proof.

Long story short, where wood is chopped, splinters must fall. And there is no way of pleasing all people all the time. Last, the people who put bread on their family's table as straight shaving vendors are also the ones who provide us with (parts of the) kit we need for a hobby. So, again, where do you draw the line?

I think Bart and his moderation team have been doing an excellent job so far. So here's to more of the same!

Regards,
Robin
 
BeBerlin said:
Forums that offer a commercial venue are a prime choice. A very tempting one, too. And - especially when we are talking about big forums, where it is relatively easy to boost your post count and assume quasi authority - rather simple to manipulate.
This is exactly my point. More and more craftsmen are shying away from these forums, and their place is taken by "real" commercial vendors who will sell anything and everything as long as there is a margin in it for them. It appears that there is not really all that much allure any longer. This, IMO, is OUR loss as collectors, since many of these craftsmen have far more to offer than "just another item for sale".

I recently approached a smith about having a razor made. Everything went fine until he asked me how I had come across him. I naively mentioned the name of the forum where I saw one of his works, upon which he said "Sure, I'll do this work for you, as long as you understand that any mention of our transaction over any public internet forum means that you forfeit your warranty for this work, and that I will refuse service to you in the future".

How is this for lack of enthusiasm with online forums?

My guess is that the more time passes the more we will see this type of shying away by the actual craftsmen and the more we will have to deal with middlemen. This of course will come at a price (the middleman's margin), but even before that, we will no longer be able to enjoy the outlook, the insight, the knowledge, and the experience, of these people. It's bad all around, from the collector's perspective (pay more, know less), from the administrator's perspective (lower quality posts in bigger volumes). So who will be the real winner? - probably eBay, as usual.
 
G

Guest

RobertSkinner said:
More and more craftsmen are shying away from these forums, and their place is taken by "real" commercial vendors who will sell anything and everything as long as there is a margin in it for them. It appears that there is not really all that much allure any longer.
You make it sound as though a commercial vendor was a bad thing in and by itself. That would, however, not be taking into account the global nature of our community. Take a very simple example: I buy Handcraft1 from ArtisanX. ArtisanX happens to be located in CountryI with which my country has no legal agreement with regards to customer protection. For some reason, the deal turns sour. Can I even sue ArtisanX? Negative. Can I even prove that Handcraft1 is defective? Negative again, which is the essence of artisanship. With a commercial entity in between, these problems need not exist. They can, but they need not.

Now, imagine that Handcraft1 is a USD 1.000 custom razor. Would I want to share my negative experiences? Absolutely. Would that be fair? No-one can tell, because Handcraft1 is a bespoke product. No predecessors, nothing to which compare it.

Blame it on globalisation, but if you buy artisan products over the internet, you take a risk, and you should be willing to take a hit without whining. For those who refuse to accept that, good moderation concepts exists, namely those that silence the whiners. Some forums call that censorship, I call it equal fire power, because in most cases, the artisan is completely unaware of what is going on in the various forums.

In an ideal world, forums like this (small, focused, gentlemanly, and well moderated) would offer a platform for both artisans and fair buyers. But trust me, once a forum grows beyond a certain size, there is nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) you can do to prevent bad things from happening. Except make the forum a strictly non-commercial one, which will result in the situation described by you above, ie enthusiasts (or "collectors") and artisans alike taking the hit.

RobertSkinner said:
[Smith story]How is this for lack of enthusiasm with online forums?
It is common sense. I can think of at least three custom razor makers who got thoroughly burnt in a big forum because of behind-the-scenes politics and bloated egos. If I were a custom maker, I would steer clear of forums entirely, and team up with a well established retailer instead. Cordon sanitaire for both artisan and buyer.

RobertSkinner said:
My guess is that the more time passes the more we will see this type of shying away by the actual craftsmen and the more we will have to deal with middlemen.
Which, as I tried to point out above, does have pros and cons in its own right. I personally would not buy from private individuals outside European legislation, which would effectively cut me off from the large US market. And yes, I know that paypal buyer protection exists, but in a squeeze, that will not help much, either.

Regards,
Robin
 
In a "squeeze" European rotocol will not be much help either. There are just as many scams associated with Gyro as there are with paypal. And this is exactly the pro of dealing directly with the makers or crafters or manufacturers. Take coticules for example (and Rob, if you are reading this, please know that I am not trying to get into your business - just using coticules as an example). It's one of three:

1) Get it directly from Rob or the site - (same same, but of course, if it's hand picked by Rob - you know you are in for a treat!)

2) get it from another reputable vendor - (You might have a good OR a bad transaction, but you WILL get a coticule in the end)

3) get it from someone on your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine-forums.com - (you may be kissing your money good bye)

But consider this: Supposing you could get someone like Rob to become a contributing member to a forum. I mean, consider the vast knowledge, and the years of experience he would be bringing in with him. This would make for a very serious asset to that community. Why should he not be able to promote his products openly while he talks about the finer points of the hobby? What is so wrong with it?
 
G

Guest

Okay, we're really getting totally off topic here. Mods, if you want to move this thread to a new one, that is fine by me.

RobertSkinner said:
In a "squeeze" European rotocol will not be much help either.
This statement is wrong, cf
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. That is one of the benefits of the European Union.
RobertSkinner said:
But consider this: Supposing you could get someone like Rob to become a contributing member to a forum. I mean, consider the vast knowledge, and the years of experience he would be bringing in with him. This would make for a very serious asset to that community. Why should he not be able to promote his products openly while he talks about the finer points of the hobby? What is so wrong with it?
Because your proposition contains a non sequitur. Straight shaving is hobby that is as personal as it possibly gets. Consider this: a beginner joins a site, looking for expert advice. Would not a number of members recommend "one of their own" and his products rather than those of an "outsider"? And how will said vendor ensure maximum objectivity? In theory, he will probably know his products and those of his competitors better than anyone else. In practice, however, that is not necessarily the case, and that will blur the fine line between advice and marketing even further. The more of those vendors are active simultaneously, the higher the risk of marketeering, and collusion between vendors and users (trust me, I know all to well what I am talking about here).

In a nutshell, I am most wary of vendors who also actively participate in a forum area from whose topic they make money. Artisan, commercial vendor, or retailer, it does not really matter in my experience. Add to that my coming from a country where "hobbyist businessmen" are a rare exception and not a rule (Americans talking about XYZmeisters always make me smile because a German Master Craftsman is something entirely different). Personal preference and all that.

Regards,
Robin
 

rayman

Well-Known Member
I personally do not find it a problem having any vendor talking about any product they are familure with, even one they manufacture or sell, just as long as they are not promoting it or bashing one of their competitors products. More information for our members is a good thing.

Ray
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
RobertSkinner said:
But consider this: Supposing you could get someone like Rob to become a contributing member to a forum. I mean, consider the vast knowledge, and the years of experience he would be bringing in with him. This would make for a very serious asset to that community.
Rob and Maurice are more than welcome to post over here. I know they read some of the threads. But you are making a lot of easy assumptions in your posts. For instance that the people running Ardennes Coticule are actually using their stones for honing anything else than an occasional utility knife. Last time I asked, Rob was shaving with a beard trimmer. Maurice shaves with a DE or a Sensor Excel, if memory server. Do you think they would consider it having a good time to discuss their products after a 12 hour working day?
Quite frankly, I believe many professional craftsman simply do not frequent forums, because they rather prefer to spend time doing their craft than discussing it.
RobertSkinner said:
Why should he not be able to promote his products openly while he talks about the finer points of the hobby? What is so wrong with it?
Because he's responsible for running a business with several employees. People who have families. Imagine they invest 150000EUR to gain access to a certain layer in the mine at Regné (this is a realistic figure). Now imagine that the stones that can be harvested with this investment turn out to be sub-par quality. Could we blame them for trying to cover it up, in responses to forum questions about the quality of this imaginary Coticules?
Marketing, at best, operates in a gray zone between fact and fiction. If someone makes a loving with a product opens his mouth about it, there will always be an amount of marketing involved.

Kind regards,
Bart.
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
BeBerlin said:
Okay, we're really getting totally off topic here. Mods, if you want to move this thread to a new one, that is fine by me.
It's an interesting discussion. If Torben doesn't mind about it in his thread, I don't mind.
 
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